Liquid Power – Is It a Reality?
By David Vizard
The phone rings, it’s a call from Lake Speed Jr. at Joe Gibbs Racing. “David, need your new e-mail address. I have a bunch of test numbers to send you.” The email arrives shortly thereafter and contains an attached Excel file jam packed with dyno results from testing a whole bunch of leading brands of race oils versus the new Joe Gibbs Racing oil. It was obvious Lake Speed Jr. wanted me to do a story on this but as much as I felt I could totally accept their numbers their was one overriding problem: they were their numbers, not mine!
Normally I shy away from testing oils or additives unless there is a really compelling reason to do so. It’s too easy to become somebody’s free test facility, end up in political mayhem or worse yet, be the unwitting subject of deceit. An instance here worth relating happened a few years back at the SEMA Show. A high profile oil additive company was embroiled in controversy as to whether or not the product worked. I went to their booth with the intent of organizing a dyno test to settle the issue. That would be a dyno test at their expense, not mine. This they seemed to be very willing to do, at least until they found out that the test would be on my dyno not theirs and with test conditions totally under my control. The ensuing backpedaling would have been a real hoot in a comedy show. Had the tests been run in their shop I suspect the dyno would have been rigged to deliver the positive results they wanted me to see. And what would a poor misguided tech writer know about running a dyno anyway!
David Vizard has had thousands of mainstream magazine articles published (as well as 29 books) but this is his first time writing for us. Vizard is a qualified mechanical engineer and before becoming a pro in the race car business was a research and development engineer in the aerospace industry. For about the last 30 years he has been an automotive performance consultant and a writer. He has won championships as a driver, engine builder, team manager and chassis designer. Four of his championship wins came as a result of a winning 100% of the races involved., two of those at the international level. He has his name on over 40 patents with his technology being used in many fields of racing. Until January 2006 he taught Motorsports Engineering students at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
But things were a little different with Lake Speed. He was “in- your-face” pressing me to do a story on JGR’s race oil knowing that if the oil did not work it would likely be the PR disaster of the decade. At this point, I agreed to test the oil in my own good time, and when it was convenient to me. Setting up an engine on the dyno specifically to test one product is an expensive and time-consuming deal, so all this oil testing would have to fit in with the rest of my ongoing editorial testing program.
How, you may ask, did Joe Gibbs Racing get started in the oil business? Given the circumstances it is easy to see how this could come about when you understand how critical a Cup car’s flat tappet valve train is to its ultimate power. Pushing the valve train to the limit pushes oils to the limit. Although there are many great oils out there JGR’s head engineman, Mark Cronquist, was not ready to accept that improvements could not be made. That was back in 1999. During that year some moves were made to handle things
Granted there are some fine lines in terms of definition, but the manpower that JGR brought in, fell into the category of scientists, rather than specialists. By the time the 2000 Cup car season was underway JGR had their prototype oil in service. Just for the record 2000 was the year that Bobby Labonté won the championship.
In 2002 and 2005 Tony Stewart did just the same. Since 1999, JGR’s oil has undergone a continuous program of refinement, and that brings us to where we are today.